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PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Arizona will honor New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin at its annual Bill of Rights Dinner on March 29 at the Heard Museum. The evening will feature a keynote address by Lacey, who along with Larkin, was arrested by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for exposing police misconduct and refusing to turn over records about their readers to local law enforcement.
"We're honoring two brave journalists who had the guts and tenacity to stand up to 'America's toughest Sheriff' in pursuit of a free, independent media," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. "They sacrificed their own freedoms in order to protect our fundamental right to access information – a cornerstone of a democratic society."
The ACLU Foundation of Arizona will present the journalists with the Civil Libertarian of the Year Award, the ACLU's highest honor bestowed annually to individuals who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of civil liberties. Longtime volunteer Bill Wootten also will be presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award.
The ACLU Foundation of Arizona Bill of Rights Dinner will begin at 8 p.m., preceded by an open bar cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29 at the Heard Museum's Steele Auditorium, 2301 N. Central Avenue, in Phoenix.
Lacey, 59, is the Executive Editor of Village Voice Media. Lacey co-founded Phoenix New Times, the organization's flagship publication, in 1970 as a reaction to the shootings at Kent State University. He continues to write and edit for the newspaper, and his work has been recognized repeatedly in journalism competitions.
Jim Larkin is currently Chief Executive Officer of Village Voice Media Holdings. He has held the CEO position since February of 2006. Larkin began his career as a writer at New Times in 1971 and has worked at the company since that period. He has served as the Publisher of Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Dallas Observer and Houston Press at intervals over the past 20 years.
In October, Lacey and Larkin made national headlines when they were arrested by Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies for co-authoring a story in New Times about a subpoena that demanded that they turn over records of readers who had visited the paper's Web site and read certain stories that concerned Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio accused the editors of criminal wrongdoing for publishing Arpaio's home address, despite the fact that his address was already made publicly available elsewhere.
"The First Amendment provides strong protections to journalists investigating matters of significant public importance and when government retaliates against journalists for exercising this fundamental right it sets a dangerous precedent that strikes at the core of our democratic freedoms," added Meetze.
In recent years, the ACLU Foundation of Arizona has filed lawsuits against Sheriff Arpaio for failing to provide medical treatment to pre-trial detainees in his jails, denying women in his jails access to safe, timely abortions, locking up tuberculosis patient Robert Daniels in a jail cell and then treating him inhumanely and arresting day laborers in Cave Creek for exercising their constitutionally-protected right to solicit employment.